The autumn and winter seasons can be a treacherous time for your pasture if maintenance isn’t upheld.
A drop in temperatures, combined with wind, rain, and snow can lead to your pasture becoming inhabitable for horses and your ground requiring extensive repair works. However, putting in the legwork now will ensure that fields are kept in the best possible condition over the autumn and winter months.
Rest and Rotate Grazing
To ensure that there is sufficient grazing come spring, pastures need to be maintained over the colder seasons correctly. Therefore, grazing should be limited so that horses do not eat sward shorter than three inches, as this can cause long-term damage to plants and leave them at risk of disease.
If you have sufficient space in your paddock, then section off areas and rotate your pasture so that the ground does not become over grazed. Grass also needs a resting period during autumn and winter, and extensive grazing in the non-growing season can lead to a poor-quality pasture for the following year.
Overgrazing can lead to soil compaction, as horse hooves crush plants and roots. Not only does this leave room for weeds to grow but it also restricts root growth and water filtration, as well as eroding soil and causing water contamination.
Compaction is another reason to ensure that your pasture is rotated and rested to avoid the ground becoming down trodden by horse hooves.
Simply put, compaction is something which you should place your efforts into avoiding happening at all costs.
Fertilising your pasture now will ensure that growth is strong come the spring and encourage a thick sward during the winter.
We recommend using Suregrow as it has been designed for use in horse paddocks, as it is a slow release fertiliser and has the correct nutrients to maintain horse health (it has a base of cereal). It will release over a period of three months, providing your pasture with a sustained period of nutritional benefits.
Around four weeks after fertiliser has been applied, you should begin to notice a difference in your grass, depending on the rain fall when the fertiliser was spread as this helps it to penetrate the root system.
Overseeding is the process of broadcasting seeds over the pasture to recover damaged areas and open sward patches, by a spreader or manually. Using a broadcasting spreader is recommended as this ensures thorough spreading and completes the spread in one pass.
Although overseeding is best carried out during the summer in preparation for winter, if the weather is warm enough then it can be carried out if soil temperatures are around seven degrees centigrade.
When overseeding bear in mind that not all grasses are suitable; best results are gained from large seeds, and you will need to consider the livestock and requirements of your pasture.
Prevent Horses Queuing at the Gate
Horses have a tendency to stand by the gate during autumn and winter, especially when the weather is grim and boredom sets in. However, by allowing them to do this for prolonged periods it can cause the ground to become damaged.
If you are able to and have the space, then turn your horses out throughout the day for short periods of time to prevent a queue at the gate all day.
Increasing hay bales in the paddock can help to keep horses occupied and way from the gate. Installing a temporary gate setback slightly from the front gate can help to reduce the area from becoming damaged – however, you will need to reposition the temporary gate to avoid this area from becoming churned up.
Implement Thorough Drainage Systems
Wetter months bring a host of issues for your pasture, therefore ensuring that you have thorough drainage systems in place can help to avert problems and keep water build-up away.
While you should have placed your paddock in a position where sufficient drainage is provided throughout the year (ideally on high ground with a gentle slope), checking that the area has the required drainage in place during autumn is a must.
Ensuring that there is drainage gravel underneath footings will cause the water to flow naturally into the ground, and a drainage pipe can divert water to another location away from the pasture.
Nearby ditches should also be cleared of debris so that drainage is not restricted by natural sources.
Wooden fencing can become a victim of rot if it has not been treated prior to the changing seasons. When installing fencing use a supplier whose fence posts have a rot guarantee (for example, our posts are guaranteed for 15 years) or use creosoted posts which also have an extensive lifespan.
It’s also recommended that you check that your fencing is secure, as windy conditions may lead posts to become dislodged or damaged, especially if they are already weak.
You may find that horses chew fence panels, therefore you may wish to treat the fencing with a safe deterrent to avoid damage.
A thorough maintenance strategy throughout autumn will ensure that your pasture remains healthy and in good condition. As they say, prevention is better than cure so take the necessary steps to protect your paddock now, so that when spring arrives you do not have to remedy any issues.